Local Content: Judge’s Absence Stalls Judgement on ARCO, AGIP Case

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Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

The absence of Justice Abdullah Liman of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, on Friday stalled ruling on six motions in the suit by an indigenous oil servicing firm, ARCO Group Plc, against the Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC) over the implementation of the Local Content Act.

Liman had on July 22 fixed September 23 for ruling on six motions, including jurisdiction, motion on notice and contempt charges over maintenance of status quo as ordered by the court.

But as the parties were in court on Friday for the rulings, Liman was absent and was said to be attending an on-going judges’ conference in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

A member of staff of the Court, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said a new date for the ruling would be communicated to all the parties involved in the matter.

Arco had, in suit number FH/PH/CS/02/2015, dragged Agip, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Conoco Philips Petroleum Nigeria Limited and the Nigeria Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) to the court to determine whether in view of the provision of section 3 subsections (2) and (3) of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act, 2010, having demonstrated ownership of equipment, Nigerian personnel and capacity to execute the task of performing the contract for the maintenance service of rotating equipment at the Nigerian Agip Oil Company gas plants at OB/OB, Ebocha and Kwale, it is entitled, being a Nigerian company, to the exclusive right to be considered and granted such contract including any extension of its duration.

Arco also sought a declaration that the persistent and deliberate failure of NAOC to award the contract for the maintenance of the said plants, as well as grant an extension of the award by way of interim or stop gap contract, violated Section 3 (2, 3) of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act, 2010.

In the July 22 sitting of the court, Liman had differed judgment on a matter and other cases listed for judgment because of “distractions and annoying petitions”.

He said he had hoped to deliver his ruling on six contentions issues on the Arco case as well as judgments on other matters but that he was not able to write his judgment because of distractions and petitions.

“Even though the court is on vacation, I had hoped to deliver judgment on the listed cases today. However, I am unable to write the judgments because of distractions and annoying petitions.

“Particularly, on the Arco Group case, this morning I have received additional authorities. I will look into the cases and deliver judgment on September 23. All the cases for judgment are hereby adjourned to September 23,” he said.